Thursday, December 29, 2011

What have we done?

For whatever reason today I ran across an article about Milton Rogovin dying at 101 years old back in January. It very well may have been something about all the famous people who had died in 2011, I don't remember and I can't find the article now to verify. It probably got recycled about five minutes after I finished reading the paper since I was trying to get things organized this morning. Anyway, when I saw the name I knew I was familiar with his work as a photographer but I couldn't remember exactly what he did. So I looked him up to be reminded.

Once I saw his pictures I remembered who he was and that he did mainly social documentary photos, a lot of which were done in and around the northeast. Mostly he focused on what he referred to as the "forgotten ones", the working poor. He had different series of photos of workers from the various steel plants, foundries, pottery factories and even Chevrolet. Also included were companies that produced furnaces, electrical items and made molds. There was even a series of photos of the miners in Appalachia. Tough, labor intensive jobs with less than ideal working conditions to be sure. I did a quick search on the companies that were listed and, not surprisingly, most of them are no longer in business.

The thing that struck me the most as I scrolled though his series of pictures is that the photos showed people who were poor, but they didn't show people who were broken. They showed people who were productive and that were taking care of their families. They showed people who were contributing to their community and society as a whole. They showed people who looked like they had pride in themselves.

And then I look at the groups of people willing to occupy town squares and parks for months on end to complain that they don't have enough and someone else has more. That they shouldn't be responsible for paying back money they borrowed to get an education and that they should be allowed to live in a house without paying for it. And I wonder how we could let ourselves as a country get to where we are at today just thirty years after most of those photos were taken. And I worry about what kind of country and conditions my son will have to endure in another thirty years. I won't pretend to know the answers, but I will say that nothing is truly free and anything worth having is worth working for. And anyone in a position of power that says otherwise is flat out lying to you.

If you are interested in seeing some of Milton Rogovin's photography you can go to his site here